A copy of the game was kindly provided by the developers.
There is a sinister thrill that comes from theft. Something as simple as taking the last biscuit from the tin makes the prize even sweeter knowing that nobody knew that you have secretly outfoxed them. Pulling the chair up to the cupboard, quietly putting the tin on the counter and then snatching your prize before anyone could walk in on you committing the crime. It’s a heist, albeit on a much smaller scale, but that thrill of deception and proving yourself to be better and more intelligent than your opponent is one that Size Five Games’ The Swindle perfectly captures. You’re up against insurmountable odds, require meticulous planning and a single mistake can cost you dearly.
The premise of the game is simple: you have 100 days to steal Operation Basilisk from the Metropolitan Police, a device that would make your thieving profession untenable. The stakes therefore are high from the start as not a day can be wasted. In the beginning you’ll be sprinting through the hovels of London, stealing the life savings of squalid peasants. They’re easy to execute, but entirely necessary. The 100 day time limit is a way of weaving the tension of the heist into the gameplay because without it, each failure would feel inconsequential. And if you fail a heist, all the cash you had managed to grab disappears as well as the bonuses you gained from previous successive heists. Everything is always on the line.
Which is why it requires meticulous planning. You can be as cavalier as you like during the early heists, but once the machines that patrol the hallways get more advanced, even being able to hear you in the later stages, you have to plan. You have to scale the building, working out where terminals are, where patrols are going and how to take out the security cameras. It’s less the brazen riot of the The Italian Job, but instead the slow and methodical invasion of Mission: Impossible. Just like a real heist, you never have a full grasp on the layout of the location you’re robbing. Each robbery is randomly generated, so even with all the planning in the world, there is still a possibility that everything can go terribly, terribly wrong, turning all of the planning into a pointless waste of time.
This is the core conceit of The Swindle: bringing tension through the perfect mix of certainty and uncertainty. Confidence in what you’re capable of doing and in how your equipment will work for you, but never quite sure how it’s all going to turn out. Your life of crime is either going to end surrounded by all the money in the world, or, more often than not, accidentally falling down a pit, being spotted by every guard in the area and getting your head bashed in.